Israel/Palestine: What Would a President ‪#‎Trump‬ Do?

In the first in a special series on the presidential candidates on Palestine/Israel on Facebook, Sandy Tolan asks, “What Would a President ‪#‎Trump‬ Do?”

Credit: Consortium News

Photo Credit: Consortium News

How bad has it gotten when arguably the most “progressive” presidential candidate on Palestine/Israel – in either party – is the nativist who’d ban Muslim visitors to the U.S., close American mosques, enter U.S. Muslims in a national database, and enshrine waterboarding as a national foreign policy pastime? Yep; pretty bad.

We blew it after 9/11. We’re blowing it again after Paris


We had global goodwill after 9/11 and squandered it in Iraq. Rage and vengeance is the wrong strategy post-Paris, too


On Sept. 14, 2001, 800 million Europeans in 43 countries observed three minutes of silence for the victims of 9/11. From Europe and around the world came pleas that the U.S. not squander this global goodwill. I recall the words of my brother John, a French-American Medieval scholar and co-author of “Europe and Islam: Fifteen Centuries of History,” who wrote then from France: “This massive unity of public opinion and political will provides the United States with a tremendous opportunity and risk: the chance to capitalize on this good will and the danger of taking action that will splinter the forces that stand with us now.”

The “Knife Intifada” Context: The Incredible Shrinking Palestine

These five maps tell their own history of the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle. From “Children of the Stone” (Bloomsbury, 2015).

A popular history of the birth of Israel — what we might call the Leon Uris “Exodus” history — describes a nation rising out of the ashes of the Holocaust, as hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors joined fellow Zionists to reclaim the promised land from its empty, barren past. “Today the Jewish people are again at a period of Genesis,” Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared. “A waste land must be made fertile and the exiles gathered in.” Many of the emigrants had been inspired by the Zionist slogan, “People without land go to a land without people.”

Of course, there were people already there, ignored by Uris’s powerful but terribly incomplete narrative. By 1936, about a million mostly rural Palestinian Arabs lived in historic Palestine, annually harvesting hundreds of thousands of tons of barley, wheat, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, figs, olives, and citrus. And their history — indeed the history of the Palestinian-Israeli tragedy — can be told in part by a series of maps (from Children of the Stone).

Tolan on ‘hope and dignity’ amidst Israel’s military occupation

In recent days, clashes and demonstrations have erupted across Palestine as Israeli forces have injured more than 400 Palestinians, according to the YWCA in Jerusalem, attacking more than a dozen ambulances, shooting some 40 with live ammunition, killing four teenagers in barely 24 hours, and shooting a woman dead in cold blood at a checkpoint. An “endless state of emergency,” the YWCA declared.

In the Bookroom Q&A: Sandy Tolan, Author of Children of the Stone


How did you develop your original interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Throughout my career, I have been drawn to international stories about the intersection of land, natural resources, indigenous and cultural identity. I had always been interested in covering such issues in Israel and Palestine. Like many Americans, Jew and Gentile alike, I was raised with the story of the heroic birth of Israel out of the ashes of the Holocaust but had come to understand that there was another people’s story in the Holy Land, too. After marrying a Palestinian journalist whom I met on a journalism fellowship at Harvard (we were married for eight years), I began traveling to the region extensively to explore the different narratives of history, identity, war, and peace, throughout Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. This resulted first in a series of reports for National Public Radio (NPR) about water in the Holy Land, and then my 1996 book, The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East.

The Journal of Music (Ireland): A Musical Intifada

thejournalofmusic_squarelogo_webIn ‘Children of the Stone’, a new book by Sandy Tolan, two drastically different visions of music’s potential collide, writes Raymond Deane

Readers of this magisterial book can make up their own minds, as Tolan presents every side of the argument sympathetically. Children of the Stone is both novelistic and scholarly… Those seeking a human interest story will find the book inspiring; simultaneously and effortlessly they will absorb a crash course in Israeli/Palestinian history, a history that involves all of us because of our governments’ failure to act decisively in the interests of peace and justice.

Click here to read the full review in the internationally-renowned, Ireland-based music magazine, The Journal of Music.

Ramzi Aburedwan and Sandy Tolan on “Performance Today” with Fred Child

The power of music

As a boy, Ramzi Aburedwan threw stones at Israeli soldiers. Then he learned to play the viola, and these days, he fights for peace — with music. On the Aug. 8 episode of “Performance Today,” journalist Sandy Tolan and Palestinian music teacher Ramzi Aburedwan join host Fred Child to discuss the power of music and Tolan’s new book, “Children of the Stone.” Click here to listen now.

Ramzi Aburedwan Antonio Olmos/PR

Ramzi Aburedwan Antonio Olmos/PR


Israel and Palestine: Not So Separate, Deeply Unequal

by Sandy Tolan
July 7, 2015
There are reasons critics of the Israeli encroachments on the West Bank grab for words like “apartheid” and “Jim Crow.”
It was a scene reminiscent of one of the darkest chapters in American history: Dozens of locals were enjoying a swim in a community pool, their skin gleaming brown and olive in the sun, when suddenly white intruders arrived, accompanied by men with guns. The armed men ordered the local population out of the pool so that the white people could bathe in peace. Under threat of violence, the locals complied.  The uninvited visitors descended into the cool water, untouched and unbothered by the native population.

This might have been some long-forgotten incident from the Jim Crow American South, but it happened this spring, near the West Bank municipality of Yatta, when Israeli soldiers came to the village pool and ordered the Palestinian bathers out of the water. The April 2015 incident, documented by the respected Israeli human rights group, B’tselem, was all the more striking in that it occurred in “Area A,” the 18 percent of the West Bank that is supposedly sovereign Palestinian land. (Area C, under full Israeli military control, takes up 60 percent; Area B, joint Israel-Palestinian control, the remaining 22 percent.)

BBC Radio 3: “Music Matters” features Sandy Tolan on the ‘remarkable’ story behind “Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land”

bbc-radio-3-logoRamzi Hussein Aburedwan, a child from a Palestinian refugee camp, got an education abroad, mastered an instrument and dreamt of something much bigger than himself. The dream was to build a music school to transform the lives of thousands of children, as Ramzi’s life was transformed, through music. During this journey Daniel Barenboim, the eminent Israeli conductor, invited Ramzi to join his West Eastern Divan Orchestra, which he then left due to the tensions sweeping the region, to continue following his dream.

Petroc Trelawny talks to the Middle East journalist Sandy Tolan who has documented this remarkable story in his new book “Children of the Stone – The Power of Music in a Hard Land.”

Summer East Coast Book Tour & Concert Dates – Featuring Ramzi Aburedwan & Dal’ouna Ensemble

 in Washington, D.C.
National Cathedral, Perry Auditorium
3101 Wisconsin Ave.
7:00pm EDT
Reservations not required.


Ramzi Aburedwan & Dal’ouna Ensemble with Lena Seikaly and Sandy Tolan
in New York, NY
Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker Street
6:30pm EDT
Presented with in-kind support from Alwan for the Arts. Click here for tickets.

Ramzi Aburedwan & Dal’ouna Ensemble with Lena Seikaly and Sandy Tolan

Praise for ‘Children of the Stone’ in Huffington Post Books, the Seattle Times & St. Louis Dispatch


Sandy Tolan knows Palestinian life. His first book, The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew and the Heart of the Middle East (2006) was followed up by his popular blog, Ramallah Café: Facts on the Ground in the Middle East. Now he gives us Children of the Stone where we hear more about some of the people we’ve met at his café,” writes Huffington Post Books’ Nancy Graham Holm.

Children of the Stone in the media, plus book tour dates

34.  flowersinviolincaseSandy Tolan is just one week into the book tour for Children of the Stone, and the response has been extraordinary. Not only did Children of the Stone appear in both The Daily Beast and Salon, but ‘Friday Was The Bomb‘ author Nathan Deuel referred to Tolan’s latest book as “a moving look at music’s power in Palestine.”  And the praise doesn’t end there:

“Teasing out all the details of this story, from the granular facts of Ramzi’s life to the complicated history of the region, Tolan is a scrupulous craftsman if not always a dazzling one. The end notes to the book run for nearly 100 pages, a workmanlike demonstration of rigor. But it isn’t poetic sentences or surprising metaphors that propel us forward; it’s the hard work of getting the story right — diligence required of any serious project about this, the most contentious of regions.”